Shipping company changes hands again

Posted: Thursday, May 27, 2004

ANCHORAGE (AP) Horizon Lines, one of the biggest shipping companies operating in Alaska, has been sold for the second time in 17 months.

The Washington-based Carlyle Group is selling the company for $650 million more than twice what it paid to Castle Harlan Inc., another private-equity investment firm in New York.

Horizon Lines, based in Charlotte, N.C., is one of Alaska's two dominant domestic ocean-shipping companies. Along with Totem Ocean Trailer Express, they supply the state with the majority of the goods that are imported to Alaska everything from cars and building supplies to clothing and groceries.

The Carlyle Group in December 2002 paid $300 million for a roughly 90 percent stake in Horizon Lines from its previous owner, CSX Corp. The $650 million sale to Castle Harlan includes the stake CSX held on to, said Castle Harlan managing director Marcel Fournier.

''We see it as a very solid business with a strong foundation,'' Fournier said. ''It has a very good management team and businesses that operate in parts of the United States and territories that have enjoyed steady development over decades.''

Horizon also serves Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Horizon Lines' current management team will remain in charge, and its top executives will have an ownership stake in the company, Fournier said.

Ken Privratsky, vice president and general manager of the Alaska trade routes, said the change in ownership is likely to have little or no effect on Alaska or the company's several hundred employees here.

''I don't see any changes,'' Privratsky said. ''The trade lanes will remain the same, and the customer base will continue to be serviced exactly as it has in the past.''

Systemwide, Horizon Lines owns about 21,700 containers, making it the largest domestic shipping company, according to Castle Harlan. Horizon owns 16 vessels; handles 37 percent of marine container shipments between the U.S. mainland and ports in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Last year, Horizon Lines recorded revenue of more than $830 million, up 9.6 percent from the previous year, Fournier said.

Since it was founded in 1987, Castle Harlan has made more than 60 buyouts with a total value of more than $7 billion, according to the firm. It currently has 32 companies in its portfolio, in industries ranging from food service to manufacturing.

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